Grant County is in the rugged interior of Oregon, defined by the upper John Day River system and the mountain ranges and four national forests partly within its boundaries.
This article will take a brief look at some of the best fishing spots in the county, including the John Day River. If you want more details, try clicking relevant links in the body of the article, at the end or in the blue box on this page. Also, Grant County is surrounded by many fine fishing spots in eight neighboring counties, so be sure to explore some of those areas through the links below.
For regulations, look to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Northeast Zone for any waters in the John Day drainage. The upper Malheur River system in the southern county falls within ODFW’s Southeast Zone.
Incorporated cities in Grant County are Canyon City, Dayville, Granite, John Day, Long Creek, Monument, Mount Vernon, Prairie City and Seneca. Part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (including Sheep Rock), as well as parts of the Ochoco, Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests and the Blue, Aldrich and Strawberry Range mountains.
Listed alphabetically, here are the best fishing spots in Grant County:
7th Street Pond
A one-acre pond on the namesake street on the northeast side of the city of John Day, it’s typically stocked with catchable or larger rainbow trout a couple of times during the spring. It has excellent bank access, including ADA, in a park setting. Watch ODFW’s stocking schedule also for potential trout stockings at Brandon Pond, located next to the ODFW shop on the northwest side of town. It has similar amenities.
Bull Prairie Reservoir
This small reservoir (27 acres) in the Umatilla National Forest in the northwest corner of Grant County, near the Wheeler and Morrow county lines, is stocked with catchable rainbow trout and also has a self-sustaining population of brook trout. Fishing is best in spring and fall when the water is cool. ODFW will sometimes plant large trout here in the early fall. In summer conditions, fish move to deeper water toward the dam, where a small boat is very useful. Aquatic vegetation growth can limit success from shore during the summer. There is camping, picnicking and a boat ramp, although boat motors are prohibited.
This small irrigation reservoir (15 acres) is located just a half mile west of Monument along the Kimberly-Long Creek Highway (402). It is stocked with trout, usually around April, and has excellent bank access for anglers of all abilities and mobilities. Trout fishing will be best in the weeks following a stocking and will slow in the summer, but there also are some largemouth bass and bluegill in the reservoir that will bite in warmer weather. Only motor-less boats and float tubes are allowed on the water.
Holliday Park Pond
This pond near Mt. Vernon (just west of John Day) recently has been stocked a couple of times during the season with hatchery trout, providing good fishing relatively soon after plantings. The pond is inside Clyde Holliday State Recreation Site on Highway 26 bordering the John Day River.
John Day River (shared with multiple counties)
Grant County includes the upper reaches of the John Day River and its main forks. The John Day is famous for its smallmouth bass fishing, and you’ll find these hard-fighting fish in the mainstem and North Fork John Day within Grant County. The community of Kimberly has the highest boat launch commonly used to fish downriver into Wheeler County, toward Spray, Service Creek and beyond. The North Fork joins the mainstem at Kimberly and provides a good bank fishery for smallmouths with decent access up to at least Monument. For smallmouth fishing information about the entire John Day River, check out our articles about the spring and summer fisheries here. The river also is on our list of best smallmouth bass fisheries in Central and Eastern Oregon. The river gets a good run of summer steelhead (which actually make it up here in the fall and winter). Most of these are wild fish that must be released, but you can keep fin-clipped hatchery strays. The river is open all year below the fork at Kimberly and seasonally in several forks and upper mainstem. See the regulations for specific locations. Some of the tributaries reaching up into the forests have good trout fishing, including the South Fork south of Dayville and in the Middle Fork, which has fly fishing-only rules above Highway 395 to Highway 7 (closed above) northeast of Long Creek. The mainstem and South Fork are among waters we cover in an article about the best fishing waters in this part of the Northeast Zone.
This 50-acre lake north of John Day can have quite good fishing for both rainbow and brook trout. Watch for it to get a planting of large trout in the late spring. Although this is a nice spot in the summer, brook trout fishing is likely to be slower then. Better to target brookies in spring and fall. Magone is in a forested setting with camping, day-use and boating facilities, with a 10 mph lake limit for boats. Get there heading north on Keeney Forks Road (Bear Creek Road) off Highway 26 between John Day and Prairie City.
Malheur River, Middle and North Forks
The upper reaches of this river system flow through southeastern Grant County and can offer good trout fishing, especially for native redband rainbow trout. The Malheur National Forest is a good place to explore these streams. Note the bait-fishing restrictions on the Middle Fork. Bull trout must be released unharmed, but you can keep any brook trout you catch. Angling will be best in spring and slower in summer.
McHaley and Trout Farm Ponds
These ponds in the Prairie City area are stocked with catchable rainbow trout a couple of times each spring. McHaley is small pond along the John Day River close in to Prairie City. The access road is about a mile east of Prairie City from Highway 26. For Trout Farm Pond, take Prairie City South Side of River Road about 15 miles to the southeast. This water also has brook trout.
This 160-acre lake in the upper drainage of the North Fork John Day Wilderness Area west of Granite is popularly fished for stocked rainbow trout as well as brook trout and kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon). This is high country, so expect delayed access depending on snow melt. In many years, rainbow trout will be stocked around June, including legals and larger fish. Angling can hold up here well in the summer, although if you’re after kokanee plan to fish them deep from a boat during hot months. Kokanee can be plentiful but usually run smaller than the trout. There is both bank and boat access, along with camping. If you like to hike to your fishing spots, nearby Jumpoff Joe and Lost Lakes might be worth the effort for either brookies or rainbows. Pack a float tube to Jumpoff Joe because bank access is tough for angling.
Poison Creek Reservoir
This small reservoir south of John Day, about halfway to Burns in the Silvies River drainage, is stocked with fingerling rainbow trout that grow to keeper and sometimes quite large sizes. Fishing can be good, but note that the lake has a special two-trout limit. It is located just a half mile east of Highway 395 off Silvies-Hopper Road.
Roosevelt and Stewart Lakes (Aldrich Ponds)
These two lakes in the mountains southeast of Dayville (off Highway 26) are stocked with fingerling trout that grow to good size. These lakes aren’t for the angler looking for an easy outing. You’ll have to hike a couple of miles at the end of a dirt road, which itself can be a bit dicey for driving following heavy rains that can come with thunder storms. Aldrich Gulch and Wiley Gulch, two small ponds in the general vicinity, in the South Fork John Day River drainage south of Dayville, also can have fair to good fishing for rainbow trout for those willing to work for them.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Morrow County: To the northwest, top-notch walleye and bass fishing in the Columbia River, plus opportunities for trout.
Umatilla County: To the north, access to excellent Columbia River fishing of many kinds, plus excellent warmwater fishing in McKay Reservoir.
Union County: To the northeast, quite a bit of trout fishing in a mountainous area around La Grande.
Baker County: To the east, excellent warmwater angling in Brownlee Reservoir and the Snake River drainage, plus some very good trout fishing in the mountains.
Malheur County: To the southeast, fantastic warmwater fishing in giant Owyhee Reservoir plus great fisheries in the Snake and Owyhee rivers.
Harney County: To the south, rich desert lakes with rainbow and Lahontan cutthroat trout, plus a couple of premier trout streams.
Crook County: To the southwest, one of Central Oregon’s favorite warmwater fisheries at Prineville Reservoir and the trout-filled Crooked River.
Wheeler County: To the west, lots of access to smallmouth bass and steelhead in the John Day River.
More Fishing Resources:
In addition to other sources, the following websites were very helpful while compiling these county fishing pages, and the information there is valuable to all Oregon anglers.
For current regulations, trout stocking, weekly angling reports and more, find links on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fishing Resources Page.
For boating information about these waters, see the Oregon State Marine Board’s launch locator map.